Skip to main content
Colorado children roll up their sleeves for the COVID-19 vaccine
Email share
Roughly half a million Coloradans ages 5-11 are now eligible for a COVID-19 vaccine. Rocky Mountain PBS spoke with a 10 year old about his experience in the vaccine's trial earlier this year.
Photo: Children's Hospital Colorado

AURORA, Colo. — He hardly felt the jab.

In the spring of this year, Liam O’Byrne participated in the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccination trial at Children’s Hospital Colorado. With 252 participants, the hospital had more participants in the trial than any of the other 79 participating sites across the country.

“It’s just a regular shot,” said Liam, age 10. “It doesn’t hurt that badly, if [at all]. When I got the shot, I couldn’t feel it as badly as a regular shot.”

For months, though, Liam wasn’t sure if he had received a placebo of the COVID-19 vaccine or the real deal.

But on November 4, in the same week that 28 million U.S. children ages 5-11 became eligible for Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccine, Liam found out that he was indeed immunized.

“I wanted him to be able to participate [in the trial],” his mother, Zulemma O’Byrne, told Rocky Mountain PBS. “Not just for protection for himself but also to be able to advance this process.”

Colorado Voices

COVID-19 Vaccine for Kids 5-11

On Monday, November 8, Colorado Governor Jared Polis held a ceremony with some of the participating kids in the Children's Hospital Colorado Pfizer trial. On the steps of the state capitol building, dozens of children stood up to be recognized as Polis called all of them "heroes."

Dr. Eric Simoes, the primary investigator of the trial, also spoke during the ceremony. To the children and families who participated he said, "Thank you for your contribution to science, to history and to humanity." 

Two children who participated in the trial talked about their experience during the ceremony. Both expressed gratitude for being a part of the trial and to help in our fight against COVID-19. You can watch the ceremony below. 

The Pfizer vaccine for children ages 5-11 is one-third of the dose that people 12 and older can receive. In clinical trials, the vaccine was about 90% effective in preventing infection and 100% effective in preventing severe illness, according to Dr. Eric France, the chief medical officer with the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment (CDPHE).

The vaccine’s approval comes at a time when pediatric COVID-19 cases are on the rise. Dr. Lalit Bajaj is a pediatric emergency medicine specialist and chief quality and outcomes officer at Children’s Hospital Colorado. Bajaj was involved in the trial, and he said the emergence of the highly contagious Delta variant has made it so COVID-19 is a more serious threat to children.

Data from Tri-County Health (serving Adams, Arapahoe and Douglas counties...for now) show that the highest rates of COVID-19 in all three counties are among children between the ages of 6-11.

“We’re still seeing plenty of children infected with COVID as well as other respiratory viruses...but COVID can make kids sick,” Bajaj told Rocky Mountain PBS. “And it can make kids pretty severely ill.”

Bajaj said it is important for children to get vaccinated not only so they protect themselves, but so that they don’t act as transmitters to people at higher risk of severe illness or death from COVID-19, like grandparents or family members who are immunocompromised.

“The more of the population—including these children—that we get immunized, the sooner we’ll hopefully get back to some level of normalcy.”

Since the start of the pandemic, more than 2,000 children have been hospitalized  and treated for COVID-19 in the Children’s Hospital Colorado system, Bajaj said in an October 28 press briefing with Governor Polis.

Colorado has a goal to vaccinate 50% of Coloradans ages 5-11 by the end of January 2022, according to a presentation from the governor’s office. Currently, there are about 480,000 Coloradans in that age range.

The state is organizing pediatric vaccination clinics at kid-friendly places like zoos, museums and libraries in order to vaccinate as many kids as possible. Compared to the rest of the country, Colorado is doing well with pediatric vaccinations. According to Chalkbeat Colorado, “Colorado ranks 13th in the nation for vaccinating children 12 to 17, with 54% of eligible teens fully vaccinated.”

On November 6, Children’s Hospital Colorado hosted a clinic with CDPHE to vaccinate children.

You can learn more about vaccine clinics at Children's Hospital Colorado here.


Kyle Cooke is the Digital Media Manager at Rocky Mountain PBS. You can reach him at kylecooke@rmpbs.org.

Brian Willie is the Content Production Manager at Rocky Mountain PBS. You can reach him at brianwillie@rmpbs.org.

Related Story

Spotlight Newsletter

Community stories from across Colorado and updates on your favorite PBS programs, in your inbox every Tuesday.

Sign up here!